Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.
Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens dismissed environmental concerns about fracking this week, saying it is a long-term viable solution to America’s energy needs.
Fracking “isn’t gonna hurt anybody. The environmentalists, they moan and groan about it, but when you get down to it, fracking is two miles down below the surface, you’re not gonna damage anything,” Pickens said in an interview with The WorldPost at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California.
“I’ve fracked probably 2,000 wells in my life,” said Pickens, who has made billions in oil and is now investing in natural gas infrastructure. “I’ve never seen any of these things that these people claim are happening when you frack a well.”
Fracking, which is short for hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations to release natural gas. Some scientists are concerned it could contaminate drinking water and release large amounts of heat-trapping methane emissions into the atmosphere. Natural gas emits carbon dioxide, although significantly less than oil and coal.
Last week, a Texas jury awarded nearly $3 million to a family who said they became severely ill after fracking contaminated the air and drinking water at their home. In response to local complaints, states such as Colorado, Wyoming and Texas have implemented stricter regulations on fracking in recent years.
Pickens argued that fracking only results in “insignificant” emissions. He added that although environmentalists are concerned the U.S. will lose a window of opportunity to invest in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, those investments cannot meet all of America’s energy needs.
The energy tycoon went on to say that as tensions escalate between Russia and Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to exert pressure on neighboring countries that currently depend on it for natural gas. However, he argued that it would be too expensive for the U.S. to export gas to Europe and the former members of the Sovien Union.
“Germany, France, Poland — they all have shale and consequently they can develop their own gas by drilling wells there,” Pickens said. “We can give them technical assistance because the oil and gas industry in the U.S. is so advanced.”
In 1997, Pickens founded Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a company that builds and operates hundreds of natural-gas filling stations for bus and truck fleets. He acknowledged earlier this year that he got into natural gas a few decades too early, but said he believes 2014 will be clean energy’s first profitable year.
“The resources [for natural gas] are almost unlimited,” Pickens said during a panel discussion at the conference. “There is so much gas.”